Jean Luc Goddard once said “A Photograph is truth and film is truth 24 frames a second”. This is why Video is the true ambassador for film on home entertainment because it is a direct transfer from film and this is why it is, also, as truthful as film.
For the purposes of this argument, I am not interested in superficial aspects of how VHS releases could be censored and cut or how films have been released as director’s cuts on DVD or pan-scanning vs. widescreen or subtitles vs. dubbing. No. This is not the truth I am talking about. The truth I am talking about is best highlighted by Tom and Jerry and E.T.
I am sure you are aware, but for the Tom and Jerry DVD release they are digitally editing out all the smoking so that you cannot see Tom and Jerry smoking on DVD because smoking is bad. We are still allowed to have all the domestic violence and the casual racism but not any smoking.
E.T. is another example. In the Film and the Video version, in the iconic scene where the kids fly off on their bikes, the Police all have guns as this is correct procedure for a road block. But in the DVD release this has been digitally remastered so that the police are, instead, holding walkie-talkies. Presumably guns are a bit edgy for Spielberg. Also, in the Film and Video version, when the kids smuggle E.T. out as part of the fancy dress party one of the kids says that they wanted to come out dressed as a terrorist. This was, of course, acceptable and harmless in 1982 because America still thought terrorism was funny as they didn’t have to put up with any of it (see Back to the Future, Navy Seals and most Chuck Norris films for further examples), but this line is cut from the Post 9/11 DVD special edition release. Now this may sound like an over reaction on my part but I don’t know if reinventing the past in the modern image is a fascist or communist act but either way I don’t like it and it makes me feel very, very uncomfortable.
Also, we know that film and video erodes. It is a degradable stock. Film and Video are truth and yet the truth will erode, it will decay and will eventually turn to dust and cease to exist and all that will be left will be the lies, the lies of the seemingly indestructible and immortal DVD – and this is why Video should be respected and revered and restored and looked after like film is. Because not every project, be it creative or factual, is made on film and not all of these projects will be “popular” enough to get a DVD transfer and these projects need to be treated as importantly as film because they will otherwise disappear forever. Of course most people would be happy in a world of 35mm cinema classics at the BFI and immaculate DVD transfers of the Matrix for their Hi Definition wide screen TVs and surround sound systems, but there should be room for pieces of varying cultural importance ranging from the Dolph Lundgren Work Out Video that was the first thing Tarantino worked on to Shaw Taylor’s Bridge master classes to the 3rd generation Video copies of Leung Kar Yan Kung Fu films that are the only working masters we have. These projects are just as important and valid as any Hollywood blockbuster and it is high time that these artistic endeavours were recognised and given the respect and longevity they deserve and shouldn’t be consigned to the scrap heap simply because they are VHS.